The past seven seasons of college football have made one thing crystal clear: The SEC is the king of the land—for now.
However, Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke could find himself with an SEC-like program because of strong recruiting now, and in the years to come.
Michigan was once known for the "rock 'em-sock 'em" play that's made the SEC famous. Like its southern adversaries do today, Michigan once groomed NFL-level linemen, receivers and quarterbacks by the handfuls.
The Wolverines—like a handful of SEC powers are today—were considered among the country's elite collegiate heavies.
Hiccups in the form of coaching changes, recruiting fails and other bumps in the road momentarily derailed Michigan. But Hoke enters his third season in Ann Arbor with an edge: Another top-notch class of prospects ready to wear the winged helmet in the fall.
Comparing the Big Ten—yes, even Michigan—to the SEC is ludicrous; at this very moment that is.
That much was evident in 2012, as the SEC put its stamp on the the game while the Big Ten sat back and watched.
The Big Ten does have at least two universities capable of competing with those southern powers, though.
One is Ohio State, who went 12-0 this past fall. The other is Michigan, which despite an 8-5 season looks to be en route to restoring its proud tradition of excellence.
Hoke has 19 wins in his first two seasons with Michigan, and has pieced together recruiting classes that rank among the NCAA's best.
The new class has taken shape for Hoke (six top-100 recruits, tops as of Jan. 15). Obviously, there is one key part missing, and that's Hermitage High (Va.) runningback Derrick Green. A 5-star rated prospect that is comparable to premier SEC backs.
It's a process, but Hoke's two-season start with Michigan has been leaps-and-bounds better than that of his predecessor Rich Rodriguez, who led the Wolverines through their worst, astonishingly depressing and nationally irrelevant three-season period in program history.
Don't let the 41-14 loss to Alabama fool you. The Week 1 embarrassment that kicked off 2012-13 was indeed tough to swallow, but it gave Michigan fans a look at what Wolverines football could evolve into once Hoke gets fully settled into his role as the Michigan Man.
Need proof of Hoke's progress?
Take a look at recent classes compared to those solely gathered by Hoke and his staff. The differences are night and day.
Instead of attempting to gain pledges from middle-of-the-road, 3-star prospects, Hoke has consistently drawn the attention of the top-tier high school sensations.
Instead of luring undersized, 270-pound linemen, Hoke is getting more guys like Will Campbell, who just completed his final season with Michigan. Yes, the 6'0"-plus, 315-pounders are on Hoke's radar, and they're listening.
The 2013-14 class includes commitments from 4-stars like Chris Fox, Kyle Bosch and Logan Tuley-Tillman, just to name a few.
Hoke won battles with the SEC's Ole Miss, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas A&M to land Bosch. Hoke beat out Alabama for Cass Tech's David Dawson, a 4-star rated guard with a broad skill set.
There were at least three SEC teams that wanted Partick Kugler, a 4-star guard from Pennsylvania. But he chose Michigan instead.
Those are just a few examples, of course. While talented, the aforementioned weren't the No. 1 players at their position. But the fact of the matter is that Hoke knows what will make the Wolverines successful, and that's the same thing that makes the SEC the gold standard of college football: Stout offensive and defensive lines.
Building an SEC-like team takes time. But that's the direction Michigan needs to head toward in order to be at the same level of relevancy like Alabama, Georgia and Florida, among others in their conference.
Hoke's shown his mettle. He's shown his desire for and the commitment to the restoration of the Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr days in Ann Arbor.
Don't let 2012-13's 8-5 record fool you. Michigan is indeed on its way, and Hoke spearheads the movement.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81